Ghost of employment past

2 02 2007

Red lights are flashing on the Hitachi weather beacon and the curtains are swirling around in the breeze. I’m sitting on the black couch, watching the rain try to fall, and alternating between sipping a cold beer and flipping a metal disc over in my hand.

It has a pleasing heft to it, this disc, heavy for its size.

It has my name on one side, and on the other, the words “Outstanding Achievement”. And a twee little map of Australia.

How about that.

For whatever reason, the image that keeps coming up in my mind is not of achievement but of a moment, eighteen months ago, when I caught a glimpse of the way ahead. I saw how far from the road I’d wandered, and how far it was to get back.

It was a nothing moment, really. I was at work, in my office, talking to the Duckherder and my boss. What were we even talking about? I forget. Somehow I mentioned living on my own. The Duckherder went out of the room, and my boss turned to face me. As he did his face transformed from a conversational smile to a grimace of hurt and anger. There was an awful pause while he stared at me. I remember his nostrils flaring, and if the atmosphere hadn’t been so tense, I would’ve laughed. Then he said, staccato, accusing, you didn’t tell me he’d moved out.

Ka-pow. That was it. Right then. The moment.

The love of my life had moved out the week before following a mutual decision that being together was more painful than being apart. To borrow a phrase from Alby, I was held together with cheap sticky tape. More broken than I wanted to admit but coping, barely, managing, scrabbling for silver linings, planning to bunker down for a while and see out the storm with the aid of friends and red wine.

Why hadn’t I told my boss I’d had a major change of circumstance? Partly because I’m not in the business of sharing more than the most innocuous personal information with people I have a professional relationship with. My general view is that if it will affect my work performance, then sure, I’ll mention it, in that context. But if not, they don’t need to know.

But I had told the Duckherder, so it wasn’t that simple. To be honest, I wasn’t sure why I was so reluctant to share. Until that moment. When it burst into my brain with stunning clarity. I hadn’t told him because I felt a need to maintain a really clear boundary. It was my line in the sand. This, here, is where you stop knowing about me. And when he thought it was normal, reasonable, possible, appropriate to feel hurt by his employee choosing not to share details of her private life – and to express those feelings with such rage that I distinctly remember the burst of heat spreading over my body from the shock of confrontation – that was when it all made sense.

Now, with perspective, I realise that moment and his reaction wasn’t all about me, it was about him and his own issues. With perspective I also realise it wasn’t all about him either, and I was not a bystander. At the same time, I believe many of the other things that happened before and after weren’t related to any one person or action, and would have happened regardless of who was around. Maybe earlier, maybe later, but they would have happened.

That moment was by no means the worst moment in that saga. But it was the one when I stopped and saw how things were and realised what was on the horizon. Had a sense of what lay ahead and knew whatever happened, it wasn’t going to be easy. The expression on his face wasn’t rational, and neither were the things he was saying. I felt dread. I realised we were in uncharted territory, the place on the map that says here there be monsters.

I also remember thinking, with some bitterness (and faintly ridiculously), what am I, a fucking magnet for mental illness?

And I wondered if my cheap sticky tape was up to holding me together through it.

Whatever, right? Clearly I made it. I’m sitting here holding a medal in my hand. Has its own little velvet box and all. File under lessons learnt sherd, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This heavy little thing, part of it is for getting things done in situations not conducive to doing things in. I should be grateful to that period of my life when in the morning I’d head to work feeling sick at the thought of having to manage that situation, and at the end of the day I’d head home to a gaping hole in my life and my heart, and despite the support of beautiful friends and family, in the middle of the night or in the car halfway to Cooma there’s just me, my cheap sticky tape, and things that need to be done regardless of whether you know how to do them or not.

After that, developing difficult policy options or delivering on a tricky project becomes something you knock over before morning tea time.

So, this sip of beer and this rambling vent goes to the ghost of employment past. I’m laying you to rest tonight.

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6 responses

1 02 2007
Saturday Night Fiver

You’re the top;You’re the Coliseum.You’re the top;You’re the Louvre Museum.

2 02 2007
Miff

Sherdles my love, I would have had more than a sip of beer so send that one on its merry way. Especially if it is your yummy home brew!At least with your new job you could now afford better sticky tape if you needed it.Mwah!

2 02 2007
IHateToast

used to hide the drinks when we (teachers) went out and spotted a parent of a student. ?!?!?we were all over 30, but you act a different way when you live in a fishbowl.nunya just doesn’t get into some skulls.my fwensh teacher told us once about how this need to turn the office into one’s social net is an australian thing (we were taking the class in oz… so he said australian. it’s an american thing, too.)some people just don’t get it if you don’t want to invite work into your home. if they force themselves there, then it’s time to leave the undies and socks on the floor.

3 02 2007
mangoman

Congratulations kiddo – and not just on the gong!

3 02 2007
the duck herder

rocketeer! rocketeer!just sit back – enjoy your beer!there be nothing to be feared!When Kettle told me, we just CHEERED!We are so proud of you it’s CLEAR!!!We love you HEAPS our rocketeer!!!

3 02 2007
Sherd

*hearts everyone**head grows to enormous proportions**scares small child**things return to normal*

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